2024 Olympics: Tommie Smith’s raised fist, 56 years later

2024 Olympics: Tommie Smith’s raised fist, 56 years later
2024 Olympics: Tommie Smith’s raised fist, 56 years later

1968, Olympic Games in Mexico. African-American Tommie Smith wins the gold medal in the 200 meters. And, in front of the cameras of the whole world, lowering his head, he raises his black-gloved fist. A gesture of protest against the discrimination suffered by black Americans, and more broadly all those whose rights are violated around the world. Last week, Tommie Smith visited the “Olympic, a history of the world” exhibition in Paris. The opportunity to look back on this gesture that went around the world and changed his life.

I had a pair of gloves, I took the right one and gave the left to John [Carlos]. The anthem lasted 1 minute 31 seconds. It was the longest minute and a half of my life “, recalls Tommie Smith.

1968. In the United States, Martin Luther King is assassinated; riots are increasing, racial segregation is poisoning mentalities and the world is ablaze. Tommie Smith is 24 years old. At the Olympic Games in Mexico, he decided, with another athlete who also ran the 200 meters, John Carlos, to raise their black-gloved fist once on the victory podium.

The podium was the one that many athletes fight for, the highest podium. It was a necessity for me to sacrifice this moment, for the whole world to see. I spoke out against the fact that thinking about human rights is illegal », Explains the athlete.

Tommie Smith talks about sacrifice. In fact, after their action, he and John Carlos were suspended by the International Olympic Committee. Both athletes must leave Mexico, and are subsequently banned from competition for life. The IOC believes that a political protest has no place at the Olympics. They also receive death threats.

Sport is an extraordinary platform »

In 56 years, the IOC has still not apologized. Which did not prevent other athletes from also making political gestures. As American football player Colin Kaepernickwho, in 2016, took one knee before his matches.

He was protesting against police brutality and racism. And you know, he still suffers from that gesture, because it was a big gesture, greet Tommie Smith. I am proud of this young man because he took a stand. Sport is an extraordinary platform. »

After the Olympic Games in Mexico, Tommie Smith’s 200 meter record will stand for eleven years. But in view of the retaliatory measures which hit him, the champion must reconvert. He becomes a coach. And at 80, he will closely follow the Paris Olympics.

I will follow all the races. For me, my distance was the 200 meters – the 100 and the 400 too. And there is a young athlete, Noah Lyles, who plans to win the 100, 200 and 400 meters. He’s exactly the age I was in Mexico. But he will continue. For me, it was my last race, I haven’t done one since Mexico… So, yes, everyone needs to keep an eye on Noah Lyles », concludes the American athlete.

Read also2024 Olympics: Tommie Smith, still with his fist raised

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